Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hannon to Stay...For Now

"Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies; history has no place for them." - Norodom Sihanouk

As we suspected all all along, Mayor Dennis Hannon's talk of resignation was merely the cover of a coward.  Fearful that he would have to face an embarrassing loss in the appeals court, he gave himself an "out" which seemingly had nothing to do with the matter.  Now that the village is victorious, the "family and health" problems had been flushed down the memory hole.

So what is the first thing Hannon does?  File more lawsuits.  This time he is seeking lawyer fees.  If we are following this correctly, Hannon has filed multiple lawsuits against the fire fighter's union and is now seeking repayment of the fees for his crooked schysters.  And apparently this is also the fire fighter's fault.

Fire Starter believes that this continues to be so much subterfuge.  Hannon would prefer not to have the public notice that he has spent an inordinate amount of money to fight an unnecessary fight which left village services and coffers depleted.

The ranks of the fire department could have been maintained with the Federal grant no cost to the village.  But that was rejected in favor of this unnecessary fight.  The department could have been maintained through the pay concessions offered by the union.  But that was rejected in favor of this unnecessary fight.  As far as Fire Starter can see, everyone lost except the lawyers.  And this is what Hannon is so proud of??

With new board that is on to Hannon's tricks, the new year should be interesting.  The real question is- How many embarrassing defeats at the hands of the board will Hannon endure before his "health and family issues" take a "turn for the worse"?


The Fire Starter would like to take this opportunity to thank the brave men and women who keep us safe every day of the year.  Our police and fire personnel work tirelessly and around the clock so that we may enjoy our holiday season and the entire year.  On Christmas eve, as we all enjoy the peace and security they provide, we should all say a prayer of thanks for these dedicated professionals.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government." -Milton Friedman

The Johnson City Village Board on Tuesday took separate actions which, with a fair and objective media, would serve to highlight the dysfunction of the Hannon years on the village board and as mayor.  As we all know, there is no objective media in the Southern Tier.  If there was, there would be no need for the Fire Starter to consistently correct the record and tell the stories the media will not.

First, the village board approved the police contract which brings them up to date.  The Fire Starter is happy that the village and police union were able to reach an agreement.  It is patently unfair for the police to sit without raises for the past five years.  Inflation alone has worked against these fine men and women who have risked their lives daily to protect us.  It certainly was about time the village lived up to its obligations.

In reporting on the deal., the Press & Sun Bulletin made reference to the fact that the deal was worth about $1.3 million and that the village only has a fraction of that amount on hand to pay the raises.  The village will now have to borrow the lion share to pay for this agreement.  This fact is clear evidence of Hannon's mismanagement of the village over the last two years as mayor and before that as trustee.  The village should not have to borrow to pay salaries.  This should have been built into each and every budget for the last few years.  Instead, Hannon falsely claimed to be "holding the line" and limiting tax increases.  In reality, he has played a shell game that is now coming home to roost.  the taxpayers will now be saddled with this new debt and interest just to pay current obligations.  This is the equivalent of taking a second mortgage to pay for groceries.  It may be necessary but is indicative of poor planning and mismanagement.

The second issue addressed buy the board was to revise the "shared services agreement" with the City of Binghamton.  We have repeatedly outlined how this was always a good deal for Binghamton and a bad deal for the Village of Johnson City.  The village pays more money for part time chiefs than it would have for full time command in the village.  Binghamton has been able to reduce its expenses for these chief positions by about 30% at the expense of village taxpayers.  this never was and remains a bad deal for village residents.

But even more disturbing is the sweetheart deal contained in the revised agreement.  The Binghamton chiefs, like JFA Hrustich, now have a guarantee of their bloated salaries for at least one year regardless of their performance or misconduct.  These "three wisemen" could engage in the most egregious conduct meriting discharge yet they would be guaranteed their bloated salaries at Johnson City's expense.  This is the sort of back room cronyism that has been the hallmark of the Hannon years.

Hannon has been flirting with staying on with Hannon.  In one meeting, Hannon has provided all of the proof taxpayers need as to why he must go.  The village has been so severely mismanaged since Hannon has been mayor that it may not be salvageable.  Only with his departure can the village be saved.

The Fire Starter wonders who (if anyone) is encouraging Hannon to stay.  But we are quit confident that if Hannon stays, the village will go.  And maybe that answers our question about Hannon's support.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hannon Staying On?

"Stupidity combined with arrogance and a huge ego will get you a long way." -Chris Lowe

Johnson City Mayor Hannon recently announced that he is reconsidering his decision to resign.  He sites "the political winds changing" in the village as a reason for reconsidering resignation.  When asked point blank if he is opening the door to reversing his decision, he said "maybe a crack".  However, reviewing all of the circumstances in the village and the recent elections, one must consider the "crack" to be in Hannon's head.

It is entirely unclear what has changed in the political environment.  Hannon's only dissolution ally, John Sullivan, was soundly defeated in Novembers election.  Hannon is losing a dim witted supporter in Trustee Ron Davis as of the first of the year.  He still has equally dimwitted supporter Rick Balles to rubber stamp his destructive policies.  However, the rest of the new board is comprised of anti-dissolution members.  Greg Deemie will return for the second year of his two year term. Former Trustee Bruce King is returning to the Board and will likely renew his battles with Hannon.  And first time board member, Luke Slota has vowed to preserve the village and work through the villages problems without the acrimony.  This certainly sounds like a shift in the political winds...but not in Hannon's favor.

Now let's look at what Hannon has created and will now have to face.  He has negotiated a new contract with the police union.  After looking down the barrel of a million dollar plus arbitration award, Hannon finally negotiated.  But this agreement will cost the Village considerably more than the arbitration award. Hannon conveniently pushes the lion share of the liability into the next fiscal year forcing the new board into a vote to violate the 2% tax cap imposed by state law.  Does Hannon really want to be there for that vote?

The Sewage Treatment plant remains as a symbol of Hannon's incompetence and neglect.  Does he want to be there for further votes to exceed the tax cap to pay those bills?

And his one "achievement has been the successful laying off of fire fighters.  However, as we pointed out in previous posts, this was ultimately a loss to village residents as the positions could have been funded by grant money and union concessions in perpetuity.  And now he is spending more money on lawyers on a fools errand seeking to force the union to pay his over priced lawyers.  This is a classic case of throwing good money after bad.

Hannon points to his "inter-municipal agreements" on shared services as his crowning achievement that must be preserved.   However, we have repeatedly outlined how these agreements are not favorable to the village and line the pockets of Hannon toadies at the expense of taxpayers.  The taxpayers are stuck paying more money for less service.

So what is Hannon's talk of staying really about?  It is about Hannon's ego.  It is an attempt to put the best face on his departure.  He is running like a coward but wants to make the case that he has done a wonderful job.  In reality, he has made a terrible mess that will take years to fix.  He is not willing to do the heavy lifting.  For this reason, the Fire Starter believes Hannon is still leaving.  And his departure will be his greatest achievement for the village.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

JC Corruption Continues

Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence. - Thomas Jefferson

Well it may the day before Thanksgiving but it is not too early for Christmas.  Mayor Dennis Hannon and Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich are giving their gifts early this year...and you are paying for them.

First Mayor Hannon.  The Fire Starter recently reported on the Inter-municipal Agreement pertaining to Hrustich.  The Endicott Village Board recently voted to approve an agreement with the Village of Johnson City to continue to share the overpaid and under worked Hrustich.  There were many problems with the new agreement and it remains a bad deal for the Village of Johnson City. Johnson City will now pay even more for this part time employee than it did under the prior agreement.

But perhaps most egregious is the provision which guarantees Hrustich's pay for an entire year.  Under the agreement, if Johnson City terminates Hrustich, they will still owe their share of his bloated pay for the rest of the calendar year.  No matter how outrageous his conduct, his termination would not stop him from receiving his pay package which is worth nearly $170,000 when factoring in percs and benefits.  Yes, Hannon does not believe in job security for the brave fire fighters and police officers but for his lap dog Hrustich, money is no object (especially when he is not paying for it).

And now Hrustich.  Receiving his big fat gift from Hannon has really put him in the giving spirit.  For years, the fire department has maintained it's own rigs including changing the oil in the rigs.  This amounts to 80 to 100 gallons of oil yearly.  For many years, this oil was sold to offset the cost of maintenance.  Apparently this oil has value and can be burned as fuel oil and the village annually received payment from a local business.  Well no longer.

Fire Starter has learned that Hrustich has ended the long standing policy of selling the oil and is now giving it to an ally that is using it for heating purposes.  With current heating oil prices range from $3.00 to $4.00 per gallon this represents a gifting of $300 to $400 dollars per year.  And again, the tax payers are footing the bill.

This sort of corrupt cronyism is exactly the kind of thing we have come to expect from Hannon's corrupt regime.  It is long past time for the attorney general and the comptroller to investigate who is getting what and from whom.  The village coffers are not Hannon and Hrustich's personal piggy bank out of which favors are dispensed.  These gifts of public funds are a breach of the public trust.  It is time for someone to answer for this corruption.

UPDATE:  The Fire Starter has learned that Mayor Hannon has a special something for his favorite staff member.  Not to worry though.  It does not cost the public anything and is reputedly quite small.

Friday, November 18, 2011

JC Loses

Pyrrhic victory - n. a victory achieved at too large a cost

It appears that Hannon has received his pound of flesh from the Village of Johnson City Fire Department.  The Press & Sun Bulletin is reporting that the layoff of 6 fire fighters that occurred over two years ago will stand.  The two and one half year ordeal went to the state's highest court and it ruled that the layoffs were legal.  It appears that Hannon has won...and the Village has lost.

Hannon made it his goal form the outset to attack Village employees in general and the fire department in particular.  Hannon's "bully" style has led to multiple legal law suits, arbitrations and disciplines and in the end, nearly one million dollars in legal bills for a little over two years.  Yes, he reduced the size of the fire department.  But he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it while rejecting nearly $600,000 in union givebacks that would have funded those positions in perpetuity.  But Hannon's ego and desire to be the "king" outweighed all reason.

Further evidence of Hannon's vendetta can be found in the Village's refusal of the federal SAFER grant.  this grant would have maintained all six fire fighter positions at little or no cost to the village for two years.  If at the end of two years, the village was unable to fund the positions, they had no further obligation under the grant.  Contrary to Hannon's misinformation, there were no "strings attached".

The Village now has large legal bills and fewer first responders.  The south side fire station is closed as often as not.  Effective response times have grown due to short staffing.  What were once minor fires have become major incidents costing life and property.  Village residents paid for the service but are not receiving what they paid for. 

Yes, Hannon won this battle.  But at a significant cost to taxpayers both in dollars and service.  Hannon won...but Village residents have lost.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is It Morning In JC?

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. - Marcus Aurelius

The Fire Starter stepped outside this morning to find a bright and clear day with an electric blue sky.  It is the kind of morning that makes one happy to be alive.  The world is clean and bright and full of endless possibilities.  It is on mornings like today that one can believe that no matter how bad our economy or personal situation is, things can get better.  We have a second chance.

It is with this bright optimism that we view yesterday's election results.  Yesterday, Johnson City residents rejected the negative and hateful politics of the Hannon years.  John Sullivan and his divisive beliefs were soundly defeated.  Even Monica Silas was again turned back by voters.  Johnson City has had enough and is looking to leaders to solve the problems and provide services without the petty power plays and ceaseless legal battles.  Residents are clearly looking for leaders, not bloviating bullies.

The Village faces many challenges in the coming months.  Hannon, Davis and Balles have dug an incredibly deep hole for the Village. Their misfeasance and malfeasance brought the village to the brink of ruin.  Slota, King, and Deemie will need to resolve outstanding labor contracts, the million dollar arbitration award, the illegal layoff of fire fighters, and the sewage treatment plant.  But all three are men of goodwill with a commitment to the continued existence of the village.  We believe that these three will work with their willing partners in the unions to move the village forward.

The days of division are over.  Johnson City voters have given themselves a fresh start.  We must  now seize this opportunity.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hrustich's Payoff

Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it's set a rolling it must increase. - Charles Caleb Colton

The Fire Starter has repeatedly detailed the misuse of tax dollars in both Endicott and Johnson City.  Consistently,  Bertoni and Hannon have used public funds to pay off friends and family.  Public funds have been used to purchase favorable press and loyalty from useful tools.  Certainly, Johnson City's deal to "share" a fire administrator with Endicott has been a crooked deal.

The deal made no fiscal sense from the beginning.  Johnson City paid $40,000 more for Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich than if they had promoted through the ranks.  And they only have Hrustich's services half the time they would have had they promoted a Johnson City fire fighter to chief.  In the end, it became clear that Hrustich was bought and paid for.  He would rationalize any risk to the public or the fire fighters because he was being well paid to do so.  Hrustich could be bought and Hannon was a willing buyer.

It is with this in mind that the Fire Starter took interest in a little noticed item at a recent Village of Endicott board meeting.  The Village of Endicott recently approved a new municipal agreement for the sharing of Hrustich with Johnson City.  It is certainly notable that this was done without public notice.  The Village board rammed this through it's meeting without so much as a moment's discussion.  Village resident's were caught off guard and were unaware of the details of the proposed agreement.  However, this agreement has not been approved by the Village of Johnson City.  The Fire Starter believes that once the details come to light, Village residents will be up in arms.

  • Hrustich will continue to collect nearly $120,000 in pay and extras making him the highest paid chief in Broome County - Significantly higher paid than the Binghamton Fire Chief who commands twice as many men.

  • Hrustich will continue with other benefits such as a municipal vehicle and municipal gas with NO accountability for the use of either.

  • The Village of Johnson City will now indemnify Hrustich for his own potential wrongdoing and negligence and JC will also be responsible for at least 1/2 of any workman's compensation or any other disability claim.

  • Probably most disturbing, If the Village terminates the contract for any reason, it must give 90 days prior written notice and must still pay Hrustich his full salary for the rest of the calendar year.  In other words, Hrustich will receive his lucrative salary for up to one year after he is terminated...even if the termination is for misconduct!
This appears to us to be one last payoff to the Hannon toady, Hrustich.  Any casual observer would see that Hrustich is out of his depth as "Joint Fire Administrator".  His incompetence has become legendary.  He is already responsible for at least one citizen's death and numerous fire fighters have had near misses and injuries as a result of his incompetence.  Only among the corrupt ruling class would this merit the kind of job security this agreement seeks to bestow.

It will be up to Johnson City residents to speak their minds at upcoming board meetings.  Otherwise, Johnson City will attempt to pass this under cover of darkness and saddle taxpayers with at least another year of this overpaid and under worked incompetent.

If Hannon wants to give Hrustich a going away present, let him do it with his own money!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cancelled JC Board Meeting

Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs. - Ambrose Bierce

Without fanfare or ado, Mayor Dennis Hannon cancelled the regularly scheduled board meeting last week.  When pressed as to the reason for this cancellation, Hannon explained that the Village did not have any business to conduct and therefor there was no reason for a meeting.

The Fire Starter is somewhat skeptical about Hannon's explanation.  Since the September flooding, Hannon has been absent more than he has been present.  And when he has been present, there have been fireworks.  Irate citizens upset with Hannon's mismanagement of the village have crowded the board room for an opportunity to voice their opinions to Hannon.  And as we all know, Hannon is only in favor of free speech when he is the one talking.

We were struck by the explanation that the Village did not have business to conduct.  It seems there are plenty of issues needing attention.  Hannon has made so many messes since joining the board, it is hard to know where to start.  But if Hannon is at a loss for things to do, here are a few suggestions for the next board meeting.

1. Sewage Treatment Plant - It is patently clear that Hannon has failed in his oversight of the sewage treatment plant.  The Board was aware of defects in the plant more than a year prior to its catastrophic failure.  However, Hannon was preoccupied with nefarious plots to avenge personal slights and allowed the defects to go unaddressed.  The Village is facing millions of dollars in repair bills due to Hannon's negligence.  The sewage treatment plant board is looking for over $800k from the village as a down payment toward immediate needs.  Perhaps the board could have addressed this problem at its regularly scheduled meeting.  More likely than not, Hannon knew that this issue would have created*t storm and he wanted no part of it.  But ignoring the problem does not make it go away.  It only gets worse.

2. Police Arbitration - The Village owes its police officers over 1 million dollars in back pay as a result of an arbitration award.  The police are still five years without a contract and at the rate established by the arbitration award, the village could be facing total liabilities of 3.5 million dollars just to bring the police current.  This is disastrous when one recognizes that Hannon could have settled ALL past years of conrtracts for about 1.2 million dollars.  Perhaps Hannon could have used the board meeting as an opportunity to explain how he and his lawyers so botched labor negotiations that the village is facing 3.5 million dollars in back pay claims.  Hannons best solution at this point is to close his eyes and hope that the problem goes away.  Much like the sewage treatment, Hannon's neglect has only made the problem worse.

3. Fire and Police Chief - In order to tighten his control on the village and its employees, Hannon advocated a shared services plan which brought Endicott Fire Chief Hrustich and Binghamton Police Chief Zikuski and two assistant chiefs into the Village.  These were sold to residents as a cost cutting measure but in reality, it cost Village residents several hundred thousand dollars more than if Hannon had promoted through the ranks.  That is several hundred thousand dollars that could have been spent to settle labor disputes/contracts or perhaps even put more police and firemen on the street.  But when it comes to consolidating Hannon's power, money is no object; especially when it is not his money.  Had Hannon conducted a board meeting, it would have been a perfect opportunity to terminate the agreements with Endicott and Binghamton and put the saved money back in the Village's coffers.

4. Lawyers - Hannon could have used the Board meeting as an opportunity to explain exactly what the village has gotten for the nearly million dollars in lawyer fees paid over the last two years.  It appears that every time the lawyers get involved, they are the only ones who win.  The village loses, the employees lose, and residents lose.  But the lawyers always get paid.  Hannon could have taken this board meeting as an opportunity to fire the lawyers and find new ones that actually serve the interests of the village rather than their own financial interests.

5. Personnel - Hannon could have used the cancelled meeting to explain how certain non-union Village employees have seen their pay increase 30-40% during a time of "fiscal crisis".  He could have explained that he was paying for good press.  He could explain the importance of giving raises as "hush money". He could explain how important it was to have "employees with benefits".  How he personally "benefited" from these relationships.  That certainly would have been time well spent...if not a bit disturbing.

6. Resignation - The recently cancelled board meeting would have been a perfect opportunity for Hannon to announce his immediate resignation.  he obviously has made an terrible mess of the village.  he leaves the village in far worse shape than when he arrived.  Hannon views any attempt to right the villages finances as an admission of his incompetence and failure.  And to some extent, this is probably true.  But the village can not begin to put its house in order until Hannon leaves office.  The best service he could do the village would be to leave immediately.  And this meeting was a golden opportunity.

There were probably many other topics that could have been addressed at the cancelled meeting.  Instead of being a man and facing the problems and public criticism, Hannon hid like the coward we know he is.  Time and time again it is said that bullies are cowards at their core.  There seems little doubt this is true of Hannon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Silas Runs Again

"History is a tool used by politicians to justify their intentions." - Ted Koppel

Many of you have may have noticed that former Johnson City Trustee Monica Silas has again resurfaced.  It seems like just yesterday that she was turned out of Village government by Trustee Greg Deemie.  She is again back running for the remainder of the term left vacant with the passing of County Legislator Bob Locker.  Rather than take her defeat to heart, she has decided that the village stage was too small and she must take her talents to the next level.

But what exactly are those talents?  During her time as a trustee, village services declined while taxes rose.  Cronyism  in village appointments all but exploded.  "Relations" with Village employees (perhaps with the exception of one) deteriorated.  The Village's budget for Lawyers increased five fold with little or nothing to show for it.  Economic development in the Village came to a standstill.  While Dennis Hannon systematically dismantled the village government, Monica Silas was there to cheer him on and support him. While Hannon wasted taxpayer dollars on Binghamton Lawyers, Silas cheered.  While Hannon pursued petty and vindictive plots against his foes, Silas applauded.  What in her record as a trustee would make anyone think she deserves to "step up to the next level"?

You may recall that during her last campaign, no holds were barred.  She even spread falsehoods about her opponent, Greg Deemie which we detailed and refuted here.  But the voters were onto her and her allies and she was soundly defeated by Greg Deemie.  When it was finally time to go, instead of being gracious, she spewed venom at all her perceived enemies and blamed the ignorant voters for her defeat.  Truly a class act.  This was detailed in a December 2010 post here

So what exactly does Silas bring to the table?  A small minded, petty and vindictive style that serves neither the village nor the county.  If we need someone to tear the county apart, she would be the favorite.  But in these difficult economic times, we need innovative thinkers with a far reaching vision.  Silas has shown nothing to commend these traits to her.

We know nothing about her opponent, Mike Sopchak.  But suffice it to say, he certainly could not be any worse than Silas.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hrustich Places Dollars Over Safety

"To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant's conduct must be 'so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime." -

The Fire Starter has consistently pointed out the indifference of local leaders toward public safety and the safety of their employees. The ranks of fire fighters and police officers have shrunk well below any safe level. Promises of "shared services" have consistently fallen short.  When it comes to shared chiefs, village residents have paid more and gotten far less.  When it has come to "mutual aid" as a cure all, residents have seen slower gross response times and slower effective response times.  All the while, village employees continue to place their lives on the line in ever more dangerous situations.

Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich has repeatedly shown a blatant disregard for the safety of the men who work for him.  He has consistently placed them at unnecessary risk to save a few dollars.  This has taken the form of either under manning or the refusal to provide proper or properly functioning equipment.  Anything to save a few dollars.  And if someone is injured or killed, it's chalked up to "risk management".

Never has this been more apparent than in a recent "river rescue".  Many may recall the young man who recently fell or jumped off the Court Street several weeks ago.  Johnson City was asked to launch its boat downstream to attempt to recover the body. While waters were still elevated and the current still swift, the Johnson City Fire Department launched its rescue boat with the Vestal Volunteer boat as a back-up.

Shortly after launching the rescue boat, the engine sputtered and stalled in the middle of the Susquehanna River.  The fire fighters on board tried repeatedly to get the engine restarted but to no avail.  Brave Johnson City fire fighters were left stranded in the swift current in a boat without power.  The back-up boat from Vestal was launched and the rescue boat was towed back to shore.

It is certainly understandable that machine failures occur.  This is a part of everyday life.  What is not easily understood is the reason behind this failure.

Fire Starter has learned that the engine failed due to the fact that it was being operated with incorrect fuel. Apparently the fire rescue boat requires a high octane airplane type fuel.  Only that fuel is several dollars per gallon more expensive than the run-of-the-mill gasoline purchased at local stations.  So to save a few dollars a gallon, Hrustich ordered ordinary gasoline to be used in the rescue boat.  And the results were predictable.

It is simply appalling that a "leader of men" would place those men in such unnecessary danger.  Fire fighting is dangerous enough without incompetent leaders placing a few dollars over the safety of the public and Village employees.  In votes of no confidence passed by both Endicott and Johnson City firefighters, Hrustich's utter disregard for safety was repeatedly cited.  We have since seen numerous instances where Hrustich's recklessness has placed fire fighters and citizens at grave risk.  There is already one less Endicott resident due to Hrustich's incompetence.  How many bodies must pile up before the elected officials take notice?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hannon to Resign

I'm a true believer in karma. You get what you give, whether it's bad or good. - Sandra Bullock

Mayor Dennis Hannon announced Tuesday that he would resign his position as Mayor of the Village of Johnson City effective December 31, 2011.  In the Press & Sun Bulletin, Hannon cited personal and family health as the reasons. Although many have questioned his true motivations, the Fire Starter is willing to take his assertions at face value.

First the personal.  Mayor Hannon's personal popularity in the Village has taken a precipitous drop in the last year.  Initially, village residents accepted his explanations for his heavy handed approach to village governance.  Many were willing to give his version of leadership a try.  Despite the injustices dealt to longtime village employees, many residents were willing to see if Hannon really had the answers.  As time has passed, it has become patently clear that his management style has been a disaster and his "my way or the highway" approach to labor relations has done nothing but line the pockets of village attorneys.

Now the chickens are beginning to come home to roost.  Hannon took a heavy handed approach toward police department negotiations and got slapped with a million dollar arbitration decision.  And there are still four more years of contract to negotiate just to get current!  Hannon's touted fire fighter layoff plan is on life support in the Appeals Court and the tab for that folly will likely exceed 1 million dollars.  Hannon's answer to these cases is to dissolve the village.  Only village residents are on to him and rose up against the plan.  At recent board meetings, residents insisted that Hannon fix the mess he made.  Instead of taking the criticism to heart, he gaveled out and talked over his critics.

But it is obvious the pressure of his repeated failures has become too great.  So if he can not dissolve the village, he will pack up and run from the problems he created.  What leadership!

Second, Hannon cites "family health".  Karma is a severe disciplinarian.  One can not spread the caustic bile Hannon has traded in and not have it come back to him.  The Fire Starter has learned that Hannon has been battling various "self inflicted" ailments over the last few years.  It appears that his vindictive ways are finally catching up to him.

Make no mistake.  The Fire Starter respects Karma and wishes Mayor Hannon all the best in his retirement.  We only wish it had come sooner.

Hannon was quoted as saying ""I think that I have started the village on the course that it needs to be on...".

 In leaving, he might just have done that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Endicott Flood Follies

"Man cannot live by incompetence alone." - Charlotte Whitton

As the waters have receded, we have all begun to look back on our recent flooding.  As we previously aknowleged, we all witnessed the outpouring of generosity from our fellow citizens.  We also witnessed the total ineptness of some of our readers.  This was certainly true in the Village of Endicott.  Whether through ignorance or callousness, the Endicott Village Board members revealed themselves to be ineffectual.

Mayor John Bertoni was certainly a leader in this regard.  In the midst of the flooding, he was advised that the fresh water system for the Village was about to collapse.  The effect of the flood waters pushed the underground piping system to the state of near collapse.  Did Bertoni have questions or seek solututions regarding this impending emergency which could have turned Endicott into a ghost town?  No.  His primary concern was the fact that several cars were underwater at the Oak Hill Ave/Railroad underpass.  He wanted immediate solutions as to how the cars would be removed.  Nevermind that with or without the cars, the eight foot flood waters made the area inpassable.  This was a crisis which needed immediate solutions.  "Potable water is a luxury!  We must clear the downtown waterways  of obstructing vehicles!"

Trustee Frank Flint certainly had his priorities straight.  Many Village residents lost their homes to flood waters and the attendant mud and muck.  Water was in short supply and a water conservation order was issued.  So where was trustee Frank Flint?  Helping village residents?  No.  Solving Village problems at Village Hall? No.  Visiting evacuated residents at shelters? No.  In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, Trustee Flint was seen hosing mud off of his sidewalk.  In the height of a water emergency, Flint was using scarce water resources to clean his sidewalk!  Did he even know what was going on around him?

Trustee Cheryl Chapman's offense was one of stilted priorities and ignorance of the devastation the Village suffered.  Chapman was aware of the severe flooding at the UE High School football field.  Her top priority was ensuring that the football games go on!  Her thinking was that the students needed a level of normalcy in theor lives.  This was certainly the most pure of motives on the part of trustees.  However, her solution was to play the games at the Tri-Cities Airport.  Aside from the fact that this is a working airport and not suited to use as a football field, it was also under water!  We give Trustee Chapman half credit for attempting to serve her community and arrive at solutions.  We only question her priorities and solution.

The most callous and shocking response to the floods came from Trustee Dave Baker.  As the flood waters receded plans for reopening schools were discussed.  With the serious flooding around the High School, it was clear that parking would not be sufficient for students and faculty and staff.  Rather than seeing a problem, Baker saw an opportunity!  Trustee Baker was excited by the prospect of parking ticket revenue which could be realized. Our biggest complaint with Baker is that he was not thinking big enough.  Think of the parking tickets that could have been issued to the vehicles under the Oak Hill overpass.  And there was a veritable gold mine that could have been realized by ticketing  flood victims for putting their trash out on the wrong day!

In the end, the village employees in the police department, the fire department and the public works performed in the professional manner we have come to expect.  Unfortunately, the elected officials also performed in exactly the way we have come to expect.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Free Speech Prevails

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke

At the last Village of Johnson City Board Meeting, resident Julie Deemie stood to speak to the issue of Mayor Dennis Hannon's incompetence.  She began to detail his mismanagement of the village.  She did so in a respectful tone.  She used no profanity and made no personal attacks.  Hannon, keeping true to form, "gaveled" her out of order and had the police escort her from the podium.  The bully, when confronted, showed his true cowardice.  Apparently this five foot, 90 pound women was a threat to Hannon.

Since Ms. Deemie was unable to present her petition in it's entirety, we reproduce it here for you.

Petition to:

The Village of Johnson City Board of Trustees

I, Julie Deemie, of 153 Zoa Avenue, Village of Johnson City, NY hereby petition you regarding Mayor Dennis Hannon’s malfeasance in office and misuse of taxpayer funds. I shall substantiate my claims by giving a brief history of Dennis Hannon’s actions while serving as Mayor of Johnson City.

During the time which Dennis Hannon has served as an elected official I have attended nearly all of the Village Board Work Sessions and Board Meetings. It has been my observation that his use of intimidation has been commonplace. I have observed that when another member of the board has a differing opinion, Mr. Hannon often directs authoritative and demeaning responses toward the trustee with the difference of opinion, rather than accepting the conflicting viewpoints and ensuing normal dialog. This has also been witnessed on numerous occasions in his interactions with both village employees and certain public persons at board meetings.

It is well known that Mayor Hannon exerts his authority in his relations with the public employees. Prior to Mayor Hannon taking office many public employees frequently attended board meetings. Since Hannon assumed the mayoral position, employee attendance and their speaking during public comment periods has all but ceased. This indicates a fear of retribution, which is illegal and an infringement of these employee’s first amendment rights. Employee morale is at an historic low level with many employees feeling a loss of dignity.

Mayor Hannon spoke on local television in April of this year about our fire and police staffing levels. He stated that “I wish we could continue to maintain those positions. It’s public safety, but it’s a matter of balancing what we can afford versus providing the service to our residents”. It is the mayor’s legal responsibility to provide adequate public safety services to the residents of Johnson City. This statement alone proves the mayors negligence in providing adequate public safety protection. Yet there are other examples of his negligence in providing proper public safety. During Mayor Hannon’s first half of his term the South Side Fire Station has been closed many times due to staffing shortages and many medical calls have not been responded to due to these same shortages in personnel. During board meetings the mayor has stated that he would continue to allow the fire and police forces to be reduced to a number that would render them no longer effective. This proves an intentional and conspired plan by Mayor Hannon.

Since Dennis Hannon took his oath of office, as village mayor, information is less accessible to the taxpayer. F.O.I.L. is commonplace, appointments are required to visit the mayor, doors are now locked at village hall, and an alarming number of executive sessions are conducted. The mayor is on record for attempting to limit free speech at public board meetings. He often will inform a constituent to F.O.I.L. for information, in response to questions at board meetings, rather than offering to provide information later.

A little over a year ago, the mayor assembled a “Shared Services Committee” to conduct further study into consolidating services such as streets, sewer, refuse, courts and clerical. No reports were issued prior to the mayor’s announcement that he would be presenting the board with a resolution for their consideration, to initiate a Dissolution Referendum. The taxpayers funded much the Shared Services Committee’s research, including attorney fees. The taxpayers deserve to know these findings prior to consideration of dissolution.

Mayor Hannon has proven to be financially irresponsible. The mayor has far exceeded historic and customary use of village legal services in terms of litigation and litigation expenses. I feel that many of these law suits could have been avoided if the mayor would have entered contract negotiations in good faith with a fair and open mind. His obstinate stance has cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands in unnecessary legal expense. He voted yes to adopt the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 budgets without allocating funds for contract retroactive payments and increases. Funds were not properly allocated toward sewer expenses, substantial sewer fund balances were allowed to be spent down, and now the citizens face large increases in sewer fees. Under his watch, 50 fire hydrants were purchased prior to the funds being approved in the 2011-2012 budget, and without use of the bid process. This year’s budget increased taxes less than 2% yet the mayor now states that he sees no other way out of Johnson City’s financial crisis other than through dissolution. He has told the media that he has been contemplating dissolution for over 6 months. All of these actions prove an intentional and conspired plan by Mayor Hannon.

For all of the above reasons, I respectfully request that the Village of Johnson City Board of Trustees, and its legal counsel, recommend that Dennis Hannon resign from his duties as Mayor of Johnson City, NY.

PRINTED NAME_____________________________________________________Date__________________

Signature______________________Address _________________________________________

There is a village board meeting tomorrow.  We encourage all who value the services provided by the village government to come to the meeting and be heard.  We also encourage you to print out Julie Deemie's petition, sign it, and submit it to Mayor Hannon.  Let the village board know that Hannon and
Sullivan's view on dissolution is the minority opinion.  Do not let the bully silence you!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Awards of Dishonor

"In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve" - Alexis de Tocqueville

The recent flooding has likely caused all of us to take stock of the things that are most important.  Things can be replaced; family and friends can not.  As the waters recede, it is appropriate to take stock of the things we place value on.

Disasters often bring out the best in human nature.  Friend helping friend.  Neighbor helping neighbor.  Stranger helping stranger.  It is this miracle of generosity that reaffirms our belief in the goodness of mankind.

Unfortunately, tragedy can also reveal the darkness in men's souls.  It can reveal the callous self interest of the privileged.  It can reveal the indifference of our leaders to anything other than their political future.  It can reveal the contemptability of the incompetent.  It is with regard to these human cockroaches that the Fire Starter issues these dubious awards of indistiction.

The "Risk Management Award'

When Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich assumed responsibility for the Village of Endicott and the Village of  Johnson City, he assured us all that he was an expert at risk management.  He assured us that he could properly manage the assets of both departments for the benefit of both villages. He assured us that there would "never be simultaneous emergencies in both villages".  This assertion was made notwithstanding the 2006 floods.

However, when the impossible occurred, he was caught totally flat footed.  Hrustich largely left the Village of Johnson City for command of the Endicott department.  In several instances, the Village department was being led by a brand new lieutenant with no practical command experience. 

In addition, While JC Fire Fighters were rescuing residents from their homes, the JCFD boat was ordered out of the Village and to Endicott to assist with the Endicott water treatment plant.  This might be considered a reasonable allocation of assets.  Except the JCFD boat was merely used as a "back up" during the water treatment plant work.  The boat which could have been used to rescue residents sat idle in Endicott.

Apparently risk management largely involves sacrificing the needs of one village for another.

The Let Them Eat Cake Award

This award goes to Trustee Ron Davis.  In the midst of the flood disaster, the Johnson City Fire Department responded to an active fire in an apartment building on Crocker Avenue.  Apparently, Trustee Davis received complaints from his well heeled friends on the hill (like John Sullivan) that their water pressure was adversely affected by the use of water on this working structure fire.  Apparently, some hill dwellers were unable to water their orchids during the fire.

Davis responded to the scene of the fire wanting to know why the pumper truck was not being utilized to extinguish the blaze.  He plead the case for the waterers on the hill while citizens homes burned.  This is why he is our Marie Antoinette.

The Insurance Industry Award

The winner of this award is already familiar to the readers.  He is the risk manager who did not anticipate simultaneous emergencies in the two Villages.  Yes!  that's right.  JFA Stephen Hrustich.  What did he do to bring such credit to himself with the insurance industry?

As waters rose toward the Harry L Drive Fire Station, objects needed to be moved from the lower level to the upper level of the station.  Various articles were ordered moved to safety.  The Fire Department has older and spare cutting tools and the like that are stored in the lower level.  But  JFA ordered those be left behind so that he could claim them as a loss with FEMA!  It is this sort of integrity that earns JFA Hrustich the Insurance Industry Award!

The Double Dip Award

The Winner of this award has already been recognized.  It is almost embarrassing the multitude of ways he is debasing himself through this crisis.

Personal leave time is a contractual benefit that may only be used when staffing allows and at the discretion of the chief.  In times of county wide emergency, one would not expect such leave time being granted.  Well that may be true unless you are one of the JFA's pets.  Hrustrich authorized a personal leave time for one of his acolytes in the midst of the crisis.  Of course, his supplicant had a personal emergency he needed to attend to, right?  Wrong!  This particular toady used his leave time and was paid by the village for the day.  He then came into work and worked his regular shift and received overtime pay of time and a half.  So for being at his job for his regular shift, this individual received 2 1/2 times his regular pay.  Life is good for those who curry favor with the JFA.  And to further bolster the JFA's Insurance Industry Award, this overtime will likely be submitted to FEMA for reimbursement.

The Bubble Boy Award

As the waters rose on Wednesday and Thursday, area residents grabbed all they could and fled their homes for higher ground.  In some instances our neighbors were only able to make it out with the clothes on their backs.  They left behind a lifetime of dreams to be swallowed by the flood waters.

So what was John Sullivan doing while others ran for safety?  The Fire Starter saw John Sullivan adjusting his campaign signs on Harry L Drive in front of Wegmans.  While people were in need, all Sullivan could think of was his own political fortune.  "I am safe in my bubble.  Tough luck for you.  And vote for Sullivan!"

The SPCA Award

In this category we have two winners.  Many have read of the animals that were lost at Petco in Johnson City.  Mayor Hannon found the deaths of the animals "disgusting".  But what Hannon fails to even try to rebut is Petco's explanation.  Note that Hannon does not claim that Petco was told to evacuate.  He merely claims that they should have known.  The responsibility for these animal deaths falls squarely on Mayor Hannon and his administration.  But don't hold your breath for that admission from Hannon.

What many do not realize is that there was an additional opportunity to rescue these animals.  When Petco became aware of the risk to animals, it brought workers and boats to access the store and rescue the animals.  Unfortunately, JFA Hrustich refused to allow them access and the animals died.

For these reasons, this Award must be shared by JFA Hrustich and Mayor Hannon.  Great work guys!

In the face of all of this dishonesty, double dealing and selfishness we have innumerable examples of bravery, compassion and dedication.  Many examples come from our fire fighters and police officers.  These public servants in many instances left their own personal disaster to mitigate the disasters of their fellow citizens.  And of course, there were the friends, neighbors and perfect strangers who stepped  up to do what they could.  It is against their blinding excellence that the dark self interested actions of our "award winners" can be seen.

And in this instance, we hope that the public really gets the leadership it deserves.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

John Sullivan: Hypocrite

A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. -Adlai E. Stevenson

Fire Starter has reported regarding the disgraceful record of dissolutionist John Sullivan.  At every turn, Mr. Sullivan has taken from the village and fed at the public trough while criticizing the brave men and women in the police and fire departments.  Whether it is his publicly financed health insurance through his wife or his tax breaks on his home, Mr. Sullivan has repeatedly shown that it is all about him and his selfish interests.

One such example of Sullivan's hypocrisy was found in his opposition to a development plan in his neighborhood.  Several years ago, Mr. Sullivan invested in a development above the Oakdale Mall.  Unfortunately for him and his fellow investors, they had difficulty on the financial end of the deal so the project never went forward.  Mr. Sullivan blamed  "red tape" within the Village and Town governments for this failure and immediately got on the dissolution bandwagon.  Sullivan went so far as to even suggest secession of his portion of Johnson City.  In other words, the entire Village needed to be turned upside down because he was unable to get his way.

Now flash forward two years.  The Dellapenna family was attempting to develop the same area above the Oakdale Mall.  Unlike the Sullivan project, the Dellapenna family had their ducks in a row and were prepared to move forward.  Did John Sullivan applaud this economic development?  Did he praise the expansion of the tax base?  Did he cheer the Dellapenna family's initiative and commitment to the Village?  Think again.

Mr. Sullivan has attempted to place every possible road block in the way of this project.  A project that was fine for him to develop is now something to be rejected.  And Sullivan has enlisted the assistance of his good friend Dennis Hannon to block the project.

Fire Starter received a copy of an email sent by Sullivan to Hannon.  In the email, Sullivan advises Hannon that he and his neighbors plan to invoke the Patriot Act to attempt to thwart development in the Village.  Although he alleges no wrongdoing by the Dellapenna family, he attempts to use this law to harass them into abandoning the project.  A copy of the original email is scanned below.  (For the best view, click on the image and a magnifying glass will appear and allow the content to be re-sized and more easily read.)

Now Sullivan wants to be a trustee.  But it is clear that he does not seek to protect the interests of Village residents but only his own selfish pursuits.  On the one hand, he seeks to develop a property but when he is unable to, no one should.  He complains of taxes but seeks to block projects that would add tax dollars to the coffers.  He complains of public employee pay and benefits while reaping the benefits through his wife.

A picture of Mr. Sullivan begins to reveal itself.  And it is of a bitter and selfish man.  He should get everything and to hell with everyone else.  Is this the sort of individual who should be elected to the Village board?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Retired Employee Speaks Out

“The power of the periodical press is second only to that of the people.” - Alexis de Tocqueville

The Fire Starter blog started nearly 17 months ago.  The idea was hatched because of frustration with the local media and its failure to report the whole story.  Much of the local media seems to be aligned with the "consolidate at all cost" crowd.  Whether it saves any money is entirely beside the point.  In its fervor to support consolidation, the local media either ignores or sugar coats stories which reflect poorly on the local politicians who advocate consolidation.  The Fire Starter has appointed itself the counterweight to this biased media.

It is with this in mind that we wrote last week's post regarding Hannon's call for dissolution.  We pointed out the numerous misteps by Mayor Dennis Hannon over the last 2 years..  We provided the factual background for each incompetency that has now brought the Village of Johnson City to the brink.  This was a surprisingly easy task since the Fire Starter has been writing about Hannon's wasteful ways from the beginning.  It apparently was a very hard task for the Press & Sun Bulletin since little or few of Hannon's follies were included in coverage of his call for dissolution.  It would be easy to excuse the Press and other media for mere incompetence.  But we now have proof that this an intentional bias.
The Press recently published an opinion piece from dissolutionist and Village Board candidate, John Sullivan.  In his column, he set up every strawman argument which ultimately led the reader to the erroneous conclusion that the village unions are bad and dissolution is the only answer.  Former Village police officer and current local elected official, Mike Cashman wrote a piece which highlighted Hannon's mismanagement and malevolent conduct.  To no one's surprise, despite being submitted three times, the Press declined to publish it.  Fire Starter has come into possession of this piece and without further ado, we present it in it's entirety:

Villages where formed to provide additional services for its taxpayers.

Mayor Hannon has done his best to destroy this great place. Taxpayers should know that all of the Village unions attempted to make concessions to the Village. Mayor Hannon refused to even entertain them saying "strings attached", not true.

The Police Union tried for 5 years to deal with the Village and were forced into arbitration twice. The fact that the Village leaders knew what the outcome of arbitration would be and failed to budget the money is poor management. Mayor Hannon's true colors have finally been made clear. Mayor Hannon pays a local law firm $200.00 an hour when the county attorney’s office offers to help for $50.00 per hour. Mayor Hannon paid close to $1,000,000.00 to the same law firm last fiscal year to fight the unions rather than sit down and talk with them.

DPW gives Village zero percent wage increase. Fire Dept offers $500,000 in give backs. Police offer 5 or 6 year deal with wage increase of less than half of cost of living and just over what the two year arbitration award ends up being. Police offer to increase contributions to Health to help share the burden with Village taxpayers.

Don’t kid yourself your town taxes will go up if the Village dissolves. You will pay more than town residents if you want your own police force and or fire department.

What did Mayor Hannon do with the all the money he saved with employee retirements? These are employees he has not and will not replace. The money is in the budget for salaries he no longer has to pay and adds up to several hundred thousand dollars.

Most Village Mayors are “doing more with less”. Our mayor is bankrupting the Village instead of leading the Village into the future. The businesses on Harry-L-Drive, Main Street and now CFJ Blvd/ Lester Avenue, and the people that live and shop in Johnson City deserve better than the leader they have.

Nicely done Mike.  The Press' refusal to print anything which casts an unfavorable light on Hannon is obvious to all but his most ardent supporters.  This is why we began this blog.  But it also remains incumbent upon all who reject Hannon's destructive ways to continue to write the Press and voice your opinion.  And most importantly, we must all vote.

Monday, August 22, 2011

End Game Revealed

For your own good is a persuasive argument that will eventually make a man agree to his own destruction. -Janet Frame

The Fire Starter has repeatedly speculated regarding Johnson City Mayor, Dennis Hannon's motivations.  Over the last several years, Hannon has consistently pursued the path of greatest resistance and greatest cost.  No contentious situation has been resolved by agreement.  Every issue has been litigated in court to the enth degree.  Every strategy has been over the top. 

The Fire Starter has postulated that Hannon's seemingly erratic and irrational actions were the product of his machismo and ego.  There certainly seems to be no small amount of that involved.  But this past weekend, Hannon finally laid his cards on the table.  The end game for Hannon has been and will be dissolution of the village.

This endgame may come as a shock to many.  Hannon has repeatedly professed his desire to reform the village and place it on a better financial footing.  Instead, all of his actions have been aimed at creating the financial ruin that will ultimately lead to dissolution.  His mismanagement and malfeasance has now brought the village to a dangerous crossroads.

Looking back over Hannon's reign, it is easy to see the pattern.

  • Endless litigation of contract issues with the fire department.
  • Endless pursuit of Village employees (Fire Chief Michalovic, Police Chief Potts, Fire Marshal Dempsey, Fire Union President Marty Maney, the lowly maintenance man.
  • Replacing the Fire Chief and the Police Chief with vastly overpaid and under worked yes men.
  • Large pay raises for his "friends" and sweetheart deals for political and media allies
  • Replacing the rest of the command structure in the police department with over paid toadies.
  • Refusing the fire fighter's offer to give back the last year of their contract.
  • Refusing the PBA offer that would have settled all outstanding past years for about the same amount of money an arbitrator imposed for just two contract years.
  • The no bid contract to purchase over 100k of fire hydrants, enough to last the village for years.
  • The record setting lawyers fees paid to the Village's lawyers with little or no results. *
Anyone watching closely can see that contrary to the austerity Hannon is claiming, he is spending money like a drunken sailor (with apologies to drunken sailors).  And the money spent yielded little in the way of services to the village.  A tally of the above "misteps" adds up to over 3.5 million dollars.  In just two years!!

Some may dispute our characterization of Hannon's reign.  But the numbers don't lie.  The fire department has gone from about 41 to 25 fire fighters.  The Police department has gone from about 45 to 26 officers.  Yet village spending has continued to rise.  And somehow, this continues to be the fault of the police and fire departments.

Hannon has now revealed his end game.  Having forced the police into an arbitration where the village had no chance of prevailing, the village now faces a large award.  This, to Hannon, should be the final straw.  Hannon now claims that due to this and his other failures of leadership, the only option is to dissolve the village.

Founded in 1892, the nearly 120 year old village has been brought to its knees by Hannon in 2 short years.  What has taken almost 120 years to build, Hannon will try to destroy in less than one term as mayor.

There is a solution.  The common denominator in all of the village's financial woes is Dennis Hannon. Hannon must go.  At the very least, he must not be given any other allies on the village board.  Hannon has had his way for the last two years with disastrous results.  If there is any hope of saving the village, IT MUST STOP NOW!!

* The Fire Starter did not include the multi-million dollar debacle at the Sewage Treatment Plant on this list of horribles. Although this situation took years to develop, there is no denying the fact that Hannon was warned of the problems more than two years prior to its failure. Whether through incompetence or malevolent neglect, Hannon bears the lion share of responsibility for this mess.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Of Chickens and Roosting

“As man sows, so shall he reap. In works of fiction, such men are sometimes converted. More often, in real life, they do not change their natures until they are converted into dust.” - Charles W. Chesnutt

Well...Hannon has done it again.  The Press & Sun Bulletin reported today that the Johnson City Police received an arbitration award for back pay for 2006-2008 of approximately one million dollars.  Hannon proceeds to blame the police, their union, and the arbitrators.  However, if Hannon is looking for someone to blame, he need only look in the mirror.  Hannon has taken a slash and burn approach in all Village matters.  The chickens have come home to roost.

By way of background, the Johnson City police have been without a contract for over five years.  During most of that time, either as a trustee or as mayor, Hannon has talked tough.  He has made threats and proclamations about what he will or will not do. He has made clear to everyone involved that he is the "boss man".  While some may have mistaken his false bravado for action, in reality, he was fiddling while Rome burned. 

Hannon has had numerous opportunities to resolve the stalemate with the police.  As recently as a year ago, the PBA offered a package that would have brought them current for slightly more than this two year award.  But Hannon and Silas and Davis and Balles were all too shortsighted to see the merit of this offer.  Much like their rejection of fire fighter concessions, they placed their egos above the best interest of Village residents.  They rolled the dice and lost!  And Village residents are left to pay the tab.  And the tab is still running since the Village will need to arbitrate 2008-date.

Now Hannon is threatening dismantling the department or double digit tax increases.  If either of these things occur, it will be solely due to Hannon's incompetence.  Some taxpayers may believe that Hannon's gamble was justified.  You win some and you lose some.  However, there is no justifying  his poor planning in the face of possible defeat.  The Press & Sun Bulletin reported that although facing a price tag of one million dollars, Hannon only budgeted $200,000 for a possible award.  If this isn't malfeasance, it is certainly incompetence.

We taxpayers deserve better than this.  Hannon's overblown ego has collided with his small intellect.  And the results are on display for all to see.

And now Hannon has provided further ammunition to the dissolutionist.  Yet this wound was self inflicted. 
Was this Hannon's plan all along?

Although Hannon is not on the ballot this year, his crony and lead dissolutionist John Sullivan is.  Sullivan has cheered every half -baked scheme hatched by Hannon.  One has to assume that if Sullivan is elected, he will continue to support Hannon's ruinous policies.  For this reason, if we can't hold Hannon to account at the polls, Sullivan will be a fitting surrogate.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Taxes Owed?

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income. - Plato

Fire Starter has recently reported on the blatant hypocrisy displayed by Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich.  Hrustich has repeatedly violated safety laws, vehicle and traffic laws, and criminal laws.  Hrustich seems to believe that the rules do not apply to him.  And thus far, with Mayors Bertoni and Hannon running interference for him, he probably has good reason to believe this.

However, when outside agencies get involved, it is next to impossible for Hrustich's protectors to intervene.  Thus may be the case with Hrustich's latest misconduct.  Fire Starter has learned that Hrustich is being investigated by the New York State Division of Taxation and Finance.  For a number of years Hrustich has taken advantage of tax advantages afforded to farmers.  Only Hrustich is not a farmer.

But first, a little background.  When Hrustich was moving through the ranks of the Endicott Fire Department, he pursued a series of "get rich quick schemes".  While on duty, Hrustich pursued an internet business in which he grew and sold ginseng root.  This business often took priority over his official duties much to the dismay of his co-workers and subordinates.  He also attempted to become a sheep farmer.  It is with regard to this business that Hrustich took advantage of tax breaks afforded to farmers. 

Hrustich's farming days are long behind him but his agricultural license plates live on.  On his personal truck, (which has a fire radio and lights and sirens) Hrustich still utilizes agricultural license plates.  What most do not realize is this excuses the owner from paying sales tax on the vehicle. 

Fire Starter understands that Hrustich has done a tremendous job of crushing morale in both the Johnson City and Endicott Fire Departments.  But we are quite confident that sowing the seeds of dissatisfaction does not qualify as farming.

Hrustich should pay his fair share like the rest of us.  And if he is not, we are confident that New York State will get to the bottom of it.  And Hannon and Bertoni will not be able to protect him.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hrustich's Recklessness Continues

"Upright men shall be astonished at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite. "- Job 17-8

Fire Starter recently reported regarding Joint Fire Administrator Stephen Hrustich's reckless driving and endangerment of his children.  Hrustich responded to an non-emergency call with lights and sirens and at a high rate of speed while his children sat in the back seat of the Village of Johnson City vehicle.  Along the way he nearly ran a Endwell Volunteer Fire Department vehicle off the road.  He placed the lives of himself, his children and every other citizen at risk for no apparent reason.

As of this writing neither Mayor Hannon nor Mayor Bertoni has even investigated the allegation. Fortunately, other governmental officials are not so cavalier regarding public safety and the safety of children.  Fire Starter has learned that Tioga County Child Protective Services (CPS) has opened an investigation into Hrustich's "wild ride".  Apparently Hrustich and his wife have been questioned by CPS regarding his reckless behavior.  Separate interviews were conducted with the children.  Determination of charges or other action is pending.

This incident may seem like a minor lapse in judgement on Hrustich's part.  Despite the fact that he placed his children in danger, one could easily chalk this up to an innocent mistake.  Only Fire Starter has learned that this was not an isolated incident.

Apparently earlier this year, Hrustich had his children in his vehicle when he heard a Tioga County fire call come in.  Noting that the address of the call was near his Tioga County home, he drove at a high rate of speed with lights and sirens to his home to verify that all was well.  Again, his children were placed at risk.

The Fire Starter can understand the impulse to rush to ones home to verify that all is well, but the use of lights and sirens and the high rate of speed was not only a danger to his children but an abuse of his position.  Hrustich abused his position as Joint Fire Administrator to satisfy his personal concerns about his home.  And again, he endangered his children.

For a Chief who seems to insist on every rule being followed to the enth degree, he seems to think rules do not apply to him.  In addition to whatever may come of the CPS investigation of this other event, criminal and Vehicle and Traffic charges could be levied.  It is clearly an improper use of emergency lights and sirens to respond to a personal matter.  Fire Starter can only imagine Hrustich's reaction if one of his "men" pulled a stunt like this.  But as we have observed, the rules do not apply to Hrustich.

It's time for the elected officials in Johnson City and Endicott to reign in Hrustich and explain that the rules indeed apply to him and every other citizen.  Fire Starter has grievous doubts whether the corrupt mayors of these two communities will take any action.  Bu as citizens we must demand that Hrustich be held accountable. We will be the ones paying for the lawsuits when his luck runs out...we have to cover his tab.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

JC Police Short Staffed

"The backbone of our nation's domestic defense against terrorist attacks will continue to be the men and women in local law enforcement and emergency services."- Saxby Chambliss

Mayor Dennis Hannon has begun another investigation.  This time it is the police department.  Is it about a murder?  Illicit drug use?  Graft or Corruption?  No.  This time it is about police officers speaking to the public and telling the truth.  And since the truth often reflects poorly on Hannon and his destructive policies, you can be sure there will be a thorough investigation.

Fire Starter has written before about Hannon's dangerous cuts to public safety.  Since Hannon took office, the numbers of police officers and fire fighters has dwindled.  Whether through frivolous threats of firing or voluntary/involuntary retirements, Hannon has reduced both the police and fire departments to the point of ineffectiveness.  And those of us who have been watching this closely know that this has been his goal all along.

Well several weeks ago, Hannon's chickens came home to roost.  (Fortunately, this time, no one needed to die as a result of a mayor's recklessness.)  Because of vacations and other time off, the Village only had two officers on the road.  Not surprisingly, the need for these officers maintained at its usual level.  In such situations, calls are prioritized for the officers with the most urgent addressed first.  As a result, Village residents with less urgent business were left to wait between and 1 1/2 to 2 hours to receive the service they are paying for.

When officers arrived at the calls, they were frequently greeted by unhappy residents who questioned why it took so long to respond.  The officers explained that there were only two officers on duty and the calls were prioritized.  Apparently, residents dissatisfied with this explanation, flooded the Mayor and Village Board members with complaints.  One angry resident reportedly called Trustee Ron Davis and expressed his outrage.  Outgoing Trustee Davis effectively told him "too bad". (It is amazing how these public servants lose interest when they are not running again). 

However, Davis did go to Village Hall and demand immediate action on the issue.  He insisted that the officer who advised the resident of the limited staff be punished immediately!

Fortunately, Mayor Hannon is taking a much more proactive approach.  He has ordered an investigation of the officers involved and who would be surprised if punishment soon follows.  And he also has directed his toady chief, Zikuski, to order officers not to tell residents about staffing.  Apparently, if asked about delays, officers are now ordered to stare blankly and change the subject.  Problem solved!!

Leadership is not bullying subordinates and squelching free speech.  Leadership is taking the tough stands and then taking responsibility for the consequences.  Hannon was quick to take bows when announcing limited increases to tax rates.  But when the consequences are inadequate services, he is looking for someone to blame.  This is not leadership.  This is cowardice.

Although Hannon is not up for re-election, one of his toadies is.  Long time dissolutionist and Hannon sycophant, John Sullivan is on the ballot.  The only way residents can take back our Village is by winning a majority on the Village Board.  A vote for Sullivan is a vote for Hannon and dissolution.  Yes men like Sullivan must be defeated

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bloody Hands

“Successful guilt is the bane of society” - Publilius Syrus

Fire Starter has written regarding the reckless cuts to emergency services in both Johnson City and Endicott.  We have repeatedly pointed the finger of blame at the respective mayors, Dennis Hannon and John Bertoni.  We have also repeatedly highlighted the toady Joint Fire Administrator, Stephen Hrustich, as the architect of the dismantling of these vital services.

The Mayors and Hrustich have been playing a dangerous game.  They have cut the fire departments nearly to the point of ineffectiveness.  And this has been the plan all along.  Once the departments can no longer function, it will be easy to eliminate them entirely.  All the while, Hannon, Bertoni and Hrustich have been crossing their fingers that not tragedy would ensue.  It now appears that their luck has run out.  And a citizen has paid the price.

One month ago, Hrustich issued an order that if staffing in the fire department fell below five on duty fire fighters, the fire fighters would vastly curtail EMS calls.  Specifically, fire fighters were ordered to no longer respond to "delta" calls if there were fewer than five fire fighters on duty.  A "delta" call is a high priority call where advanced life support is required.  An "echo" call is a maximum priority call where cardiac arrest has occurred and death is imminent.

Two weeks ago, a citizen collapsed at the Schaeffer bus terminal in Endicott.  The 911 dispatch call came in as a "delta" call.  Since there were four fire fighters on duty, Endicott Fire EMS was not allowed to respond the four or five blocks to the scene.  Instead, the Union Volunteer Emergency Squad (UVES) was dispatched.  Unfortunately, the UVES ambulance was unavailable and the UVES "fly car" with one paramedic had to come from Johnson City.  As a result, the citizen waited on the ground for 5-6 minutes before he received ANY medical attention and another 5-6 minutes before the ambulance arrived.  In these precious minutes of waiting, the citizen died.

While all of this was going on, four able Endicott Fire Fighter EMTs sat by helplessly in the fire station.  Prohibited from responding by their chief, they were left to watching the clock while an elderly man's life slipped away.

There is no way to know for sure whether the fire fighters could have saved this man's life.  But a significantly shorter response time would have certainly increased his chances.

What is patently clear is that Bertoni and Hrustich's wreckless slashing of emergency services in Endicott has placed citizens at risk.  They are playing political and fiscal games with your safety for their own political and financial gain.  If a citizen dies, so be it.

Enough is enough.  If this was your husband, brother or father who laid helplessly on the ground, would you merely shake your head and remark "what a shame it is" or would you demand answers.  Would you hold the officials accountable or merely file it away as a bad memory.

The time to act is now.  Next time, it might be your mother, son or wife.  Or perhaps even you.  And the blood will be on Bertoni's and Hrustich's hands.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Endicott Follies Continue

"No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth." - Jean Giraudoux

Fire Starter read with great astonishment regarding the latest scandal involving someone close to the Village of Endicott Mayor.  Saturday's Press & Sun Bulletin reported that Bertoni appointee and part time Village Justice, Michael Fauci, has numerous judgements filed against him by the State of New York.  These judgements include:
  • Fines and penalties for failing to provide Workman's Compensation coverage to protect his employees
  • Several fines for violations of the Election Law
  • Judgement for unpaid taxes
  • Judgement for failure to pay unemployment taxes.
Fauci, a practicing attorney for many years, claimed that he could not find anyone to talk to to clear up the nearly $100K judgement from Workman's Compensation so he just stopped calling.  As weak as this excuse was, at least he put in a good try.  No explanation was given regarding all of the other judgements and penalties that this officer of the court ignored.

This latest episode of arrogance by public servants is disturbing for several reasons.  Fauci is charged with judging criminal and civil cases that arise in the Village of Endicott.  If he is this dismissive of the law in his personal matters, is he fit to pass judgement on others?  When confronted about these debts, his answer was "I'll get around to it".  Would such an answer be acceptable in Judge Fauci's court?  How can this "hand maiden of the law" have any moral authority going forward?

And what about his patron, King John the Clueless?  Mayor John Bertoni has appointed Fauci to this position several times.  His best answer was these are "lawyer charges rather than judge charges".  Wait...What!?  It is as if it does not matter what Fauci does on his own time and his off bench conduct in no way reflects on his role as a judge.  We suppose it is at least a plus that Fauci doesn't claim to "own the village".  But his dismissive attitude is reflective of the same arrogance displayed by Bertoni.

In classic Bertoni-eaze, he notes "whether that transforms to him being a judge and upholding and enforcing the law, I'll talk to him once I get the official reports"  Huh??  Fire Starter is not even sure what this sentence means.  Fauci has broken and flouted the law.  What else does King John the Unintelligible need to know?

And then there is the money quote: "If this raises a red flag, we will deal with it".  Mayor Bertoni--meet red flag.  Over $100k in judgements and fines from the State of New York and the answer is "I'll get around to it".

But King John the Witless never sees the red flags.  Whether it is the reckless and incompetent Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich, the incompetent airport manager or his many other friends and family, Bertoni chooses not to see the red flags.

But it appears that residents are beginning to see red flags everywhere.  And Bertoni  the color guard.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Where is Hannon??

Heroes are not known by the loftiness of their carriage; the greatest braggarts are generally the merest cowards”  - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Fire Starter recently noticed that mayor Dennis “Megaphone” Hannon has been quieter than usual. In the past, Hannon reveled in his ability to throw mud at his foes and perceived foes. Hannon never missed an opportunity to make an unsubstantiated accusation or paint the cloud of suspicion over otherwise innocent residents and employees. However, as of late, Hannon has receded into the background amid various controversies arising within the Village. When it comes to the misfeasance or malfeasance of Hannon and his cronies Hannon has had little to say publicly.

When the Press & Sun Bulletin revealed that the Village had a large expenditure for a fire hydrants through a “no bid” sweetheart deal, Hannon promised to “get to the bottom of it”. It was unclear why the sleazy backroom deal was made. However, what was clear is that in the end, the Village of Johnson City spent in excess of $100,000.00 on enough fire hydrants to last it for the next 5 to 10 years. Something was clearly wrong with this deal. Yet Hannon has been uncharacteristically silent since his initial comments.

Then there is the reckless behavior of Dennis Hannon’s golden boy, Joint Fire Administrator, Hrustich. Both the Johnson City and Endicott Fire Departments took votes of no confidence in which Hrustich’s dishonesty and reckless disregard for safety were featured. More recently, it has come to light that Hrustich’s reckless ways have not abated. His reckless driving while responding to a fire call and endangering the welfare of his own children has been highlighted here in recent weeks. Again, strangely, Hannon has been silent.

Fire Starter has recently learned that Hrustich placed Johnson City firefighters in danger at the funeral of a well–liked local official. Hrustich had agreed to deploy a flag from an aerial ladder in honor of this public servant.  Unfortunately, this required a fire fighter to be in the aerial bucket.  Completely disregarding safety, Hrustich ordered Johnson City Firefighters to deploy an aerial ladder while the fire truck was parked on the side of a hill.  The direction needlessly placed Johnson City Firefighters and a Johnson City aerial truck in great danger of “rolling over”.  This maneuver is contrary to factory recommendations and contrary to good common sense.  However, we have yet to hear any comment from Mayor Hannon.

And then there is the matter of the Sewage Treatment Plant. Both as a Trustee and as Mayor, Hannon is up to his ears in… well you know. He and his cronies, Monica Silas and Rick Balles ignored repeated warnings regarding the impending failure of the retaining walls at the Sewage Treatment Plant. In evidence going back as far as 2008, Village Board members were warned of the serious problem at the Sewage Treatment Plant. Rather than deal with this important matter, Hannon and his friends were pursuing personal vendettas and proving to everyone who’s in charge. However, when the “sh*t hit the van”, so to speak, Hannon gave a resounding “no comment”.

In the midst of these various crises and scandals one would expect that a true leader would be spending his time gathering facts and seeking solutions. However, Fire Starter has learned that instead, Hannon has gone on an extended vacation to his 1000 Islands retreat. Now that is leadership!

Mayor Hannon should know that he can run but he cannot hide. The issues he ran from will be there when he returns and the Fire Starter will be there to hold him responsible. His retreat from scandal will not result in the scandals dying. Fire Starter is committed to continuing to reveal Hannon for the incompetent coward he is.

None of this should come as any surprise to those who have watched Hannon bully his way through life. Our mothers always told us that underneath it all, bully’s are cowards. Is there any doubt about Hannon?